Occupy Your Holiday Shopping

I don’t know how many of you moved your money out of a big bank and into a local credit union on November 5th (if you didn’t I highly recommend it! learn why), but it can be argued that part of the global Occupy movement has to do with putting your money behind your ideologies. Which can be difficult, but if you’re interested in healthy communities–in YOUR community being healthy–then try shopping as local or, short of that, as small as possible for the holidays. Did you know that businesses like Target and WalMart won’t allow workers to unionize, make it difficult for employees to qualify for company health care (that’s a Target specialty), discriminate based on gender (WalMart specialty), move jobs overseas to “cut costs” which in part means that they don’t pay oversea workers a living wage? Or worse. A report released this past summer targeted (no pun intended!) several American Corporations for human rights abuses. Here’s a fun tidbit:

In June, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights released a report alleging that workers producing clothing for Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Kohl’s and Hanes at a factory in Jordan have been routinely beaten, underpaid and forced to work hours in excess of what the local law allows. The report added that workers have been forced to live in bed bug-infested dormitories that lack heat and hot water, despite the snow and ice that are a feature of local winters. The report also alleged a pattern of widespread sexual abuse of female employees at the Classic Brands factory complex.

From Wood Clinic

Hey! You know who’s never owned a factory responsible for rampant abuse? The person who hand carves wooden toys down the street and sells them online, the variety of folks that sew and knit and hand tool leather. And their stuff is WAY more fun to receive! For the past 3 years, I’ve gotten nearly every Christmas gift I need at the CCA Holiday Craft Fair. Seriously. It’s the best! Artists from all over, some still in school at CCA and some alumni, gather on campus and sell their handmade wares. You can find anything from knitted monsters for little kids, to hand-carved furniture, to jewelry. The best part is that while you’re perusing, taking in the smell of eucalyptus and fog, they have live music and refreshments! Sometimes you even meet people. It’s a whole occasion. Doesn’t that sound so much better than a packed, fluorescent Target experience that leaves you feeling cranky, drained, and anonymous? I don’t live in Oakland anymore, but you can be sure that I’ll be getting most of my gifts this year at Providence’s Holiday Craft Fair, which is the same idea.

So, as a treat, Sara Seinberg will be reappearing in the coming weeks with a series she calls “Move Your Money.” She’ll dole out all sorts of thoughtful, inexpensive, personal, non-corporate gift ideas.

To augment Sara’s specificity, I’ll be collecting store ideas as I find them and as you tell me about them. I’ll add them to the list below and let you know on Facebook when the list has updates! So send whatever you think of along! Your ideas can come in the form of websites that sell handmade items, places to buy awesome American made stuff (as opposed to chatchkes, which seem to be the focus of a lot of “American Made” sites), individual websites and physical stores (including your own!), spots that are hyperlocal (e.g. you live in X town/city and this store is only in that town/city, but you want people to know about it), anything that keeps our Holiday buying experience one of warm hand to warm hand! It’s a challenge, but I bet we can meet it.

Typographical Wall Calendar by BriarMade

The best part of the Holidays is that it’s a great time to really consider people. Think about the people you’re getting gifts for. You love them (I’m assuming)! What do you love about them? What makes you think of them? What do they like/dislike/eat/wear? Everyone is an individual and as such, deserves individuality, not homogeneity. Instead of approaching shopping as a chore, why not look at with a sense of adventure and affection? Then bring that consideration and verve to your shopping ethos. WalMart is no place for consideration and verve, now is it?

Divided Sterling Ring by Three Chords

Let the adventure begin!

(I’d really like to get more of the middle of the country in here. Small towns, especially! And other coastal locales, too)

Bay Area

Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big box store “Black Friday”, and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays

Marion and Rose’s Workshop features a well-edited collection of objects, clothing, and uncommon home and personal accessories from all over the world

Nathan & Co.: Gifts for All Occasions

CCA Holiday Fair: shop for one-of-a-kind, handmade, affordable gifts created by the CCA community: paintings, drawings, cards, jewelry, ceramics, handblown glass, clothing, photography, textiles, and more. Discover unique gifts while enjoying live jazz music and other treats.

The Lab Winter Wunderkammer Holiday Sale: On December 9 and 10, we’ll be opening our gallery as a cabinet of curiosities, inviting viewers and buyers to experience the richness of the local arts community. Guest DJs, warm spiced wine, and yummy holiday treats by Delicatrocities will make this years showing and shopping experience festive and fun.

San Francisco Center for the Book Holiday Sale: The Holiday Fair is a great place to meet fantastic makers and friends, peruse the wide selection of artists’ books and journals, letterpress prints and holiday cards, and get some gift shopping done!

Chicago Area

Renegade Handmade is a unique one-stop shop for DIY goods, featuring the work of over 400 artists

Little Uni carries a hip, modern line of personalized clothing and accessories (for little ones) with sewn appliqués

Sprout Home: where else are you going to get your porcelain little red riding hood and the big bad wolf vases?

Brooklyn Area

Cog & Pearl: artist-made goods of all sorts

Sprout Home: where else are you going to get your porcelain little red riding hood and the big bad wolf vases?

Brooklyn Farmacy & Soda: In particular, the Wintry Mix Holiday Sale Wed., November 30th from6-9pm

Boston Area

Davis Squared (hyper local- no online shopping): Modern gifts for him, her, house, and baby

MassArt Holiday Sale: December 5-11…purchase handmade, quality artwork by students and alumni. Savvy shoppers can pick up unique gifts – from hand-blown glass, ceramics, oil paintings to handmade jewelry, and more. Students receive 70 percent of the proceeds and alumni receive 65 percent. Sales support financial assistance to students.

Magpie (hyperlocal-no online shopping) Handmade gifts by local designers and artists

Absolutely Fabulous: Home décor items, clothing & accessories, all either one of a kind vintage, new, or handmade

Porter Square Books: Passionate about books, passionate about selling books

Providence Area

Providence Holiday Market– Every Saturday until December 17th: this outdoor market will feature local arts, crafts, roasted nuts, holiday greens, topiaries, wooden cutting boards, locally roasted coffees from local vendors

Craftland: celebrates all kinds of sparkly handmade objects and the people who make them

Zop Soapworks: handmade soaps made from olive, palm and coconut oils, which are then infused with pure glycerine (note: The  guy who owns this place makes the soaps in the window and is like the Werner Herzog of soap. Prepare to be there a while shooting the shit)

The Curatorium (nearly hyper local- the online selection sucks): Part design store, part Natural History Museum, part small-town gift shop

What Cheer Antiques & Vintage (hyperlocal-no online shopping): putting mellow crackle back into music since 1999

Armageddon Record Shop:  We like records, we run a record shop…unlike other shops that have “Records” as part of their name and yet have none… We also stock CD’s, cassettes, videos, magazines(both current and back issues), t-shirts, and a few books.

Wickford, RI

Different Drummer: (WARNING there is a bizarre photoshopped photo on their home page, but they DO carry Laura Zindel ceramics, so.) Whimsical to sophisticated, American handcrafts, RI artists, fabulous cards, pottery, jewelry, Trollbeads.

Mystic Schrimshanders: OLD SCRIMSHAW SERIOUSLY and other weird things

Kitchen & Table of Wickford (hyperlocal- no website even!): A purveyor of top quality & hard to find kitchenware, gadgets, accessories & kitchen related gifts

Portland (OR) Area

Open For Business: A chance retail encounter

Crafty Wonderland: Portland’s art and craft extravaganza Sat. and Sun. December 10th and 11th

Portland Bazaar: a collection of regional and national vendors with interesting wares, amazing food, and excellent drinks

Sword + Fern: Ornament, curiosity, heirloom, design, horticulture, apothecary, jewelry, delightful numinous objects for all

Pittsburgh Area

Pavement: a neighborhood boutique featuring a creatively curates selection of shoes, clothing, and handmade accessories.

Pageboy: Independent and local designers and hand-picked vintage for masculine, feminine, and androgenous individuals of all shapes, sizes, and styles can shop in the same store. Because each pieces is one of a kind, tailoring services are available to ensure the perfect fit.

All Over

Bread and Bread’s guide to small press shopping  (for books)

Briar Made: “I like walking, I like nature and I like design. I especially like to combine all three in to one project!”

Three Chords– handmade jewelry and knitted goods

Jane Richmond– Original knitting patterns

Thread Abell: Handcrafted useful yet stylish items that everyone can use everyday (awesome stuff for little ones).

All American Clothing Company– only union-made clothes manufactured in the USA (great for basics and socks)

Tiny Showcase: Each week we pick a new piece of tiny artwork and turn the work into a limited-run print production. Each run is printed on archival Hahnemühle German Printmaking Paper.

20×20: As we see it, there are a lot of people out there who want to sell their art and a lot of people who’d like to buy it. They just have a hard time finding each other.

Uncommon Goods: Unique gifts and creative design

Andie’s Specialty Sweets: Edible just about anything you can think of (cake embellishments and decorative sweets made to order). EDIBLE CANDY GEARS!


About Michael von Braithwaite

Does it look like I'd wear it on a boat, at an eccentric person's estate or accompanied by a peacock on a chain? Yeah, I'll probably buy that.


  1. love it, as always, michael!
    especially this part: “Hey! You know who’s never…”

    here are two more great ones in SF, at The Lab, and at the SF Center for the book: http://www.thelab.org/schedule/events/569-holiday-art-sale.html

  2. blevit

    Portland area holiday fairs:

    Crafty Wonderland
    Saturday and Sunday, December 10th + 11th
    11am – 6pm both days

    Portland Bazaar
    December 10th + 11th

  3. Michael von Braithwaite

    Thanks, guys! I included your tips above!

  4. more lovely etsy shops!

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/nonfictiontees [shirts with minerals or cephalopods on them!]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/ohGoodHEAVENS [someone in south africa is making some cute ties]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/yellowfield7 [i can’t type a description of these hats because i’m too busy drooling all over myself]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/timberlineltd [want to cash in on the pendelton trend without giving your money to some shitty place like urban outfitters? give your dollars to this nice lady!]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/Moxiedoll [a chicagoland artist who sells her sassy cross stitching!]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/ForStrangeWomen [who doesn’t want a perfume oil entitled “sweet androgyny”?]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/hoakonhelga [purses made from recycled leather jackets]

    http://www.etsy.com/shop/dirtsastudio [a beautiful marriage of elementary biology class and home decor]

  5. WiseFather

    You might like this direct action protest I took on my own. I called my credit card’s customer service line to do some negotiating. Having a bit of leverage, I thought it presented a great opportunity to mess with them a little and make a few points about the unfairness of the credit card lending system. I made video of the call and posted it on my blog and Youtube. It is quite funny even if you are pro-megabank. Since it’s a protest at home, I called it my kitchen counterstrike against Bank of America. http://www.ragingwisdom.com/?p=508

  6. Pittsburgh!

    Pavement- http://www.pavementshoes.com/
    Pageboy- http://pageboypgh.com/

    to name 2 favorites off the top of my head.

    Bummed to hear about Target. It’s such a good go-to place when you need contact solution, infant socks, and toilet paper. And their pharmacists are really fast and nice. If only the world was easy.

  7. Sara Seinberg

    I Love Sword and Fern in PDX.

  8. Pingback: How to Dress Cheap Without Looking Cheap (Unless That’s What You’re Going For) « Ironing Board Collective

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